The Philippine Science High School, sometimes called PSHS or Pisay, is a prestigious system of 13 campus-institutions that provides quality education focused on science, technology and mathematics to deserving youth. Admission is very competitive where in only the top 10 percent of a graduating elementary class can take the qualifying exams. The perks include exclusive use of the state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms and equipment. Not to mention that tuition is free, the books are loaned for free, and once a month every scholar receives a socialized allowance depending on the annual income of one’s family.
The PSHS Contract
The PSHS contract is one signed by the student and his parents after qualifying the entrance exams and before admission. It governs the expectations of the school to the student and the parents. One example is that students are required to maintain an average higher than 2.5 to keep his scholarship. When talking of the PSHS contract, I will be talking about the non-compliance of a very specific section breached by the most number of PSHS graduates. Article 6, talks about the Scholarship Obligations, and Article 6 section B states:
“Pursuit of Course in Science and Technology: The scholar-awardee shall pursue a course in science and technology, falling under the specific needs of the manpower development of the Department of Science and Technology and the DOST Council, such as the Basic Sciences, Applied Sciences, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Biotechnology, and the like.”
If a student fails to do so, he is expected to pay monetary compensation for the tuition value of his education and allowances received during the duration of his scholarship. Meaning, taking up Arts or Social Sciences can be an expensive endeavor to a Pisay scholar. It’s the law.
A Commission on Audit report states that there are rogue scholars that owe the government up to 32 Million pesos. P8.67 million come from those who were not able to finish their Pisay education, while P23.5 million from scholars who did not take science and technology courses, as stated in Article 6 section B. The COA report states that this is due to the poor monitoring system as there is no rule requiring students to report their current course and college of study. They further add that the efficiency of the Pisay system is in questions. Is it just worth it to continue spending tax payer’s money for the education of these students who might not take science and technology courses?
On the Belief of Scientific Nation-Building
The Pisay system is founded on the belief that by producing a critical number of scientists, they are helping in the progression of the Philippines. This system is built to choose the smartest students, make them sign a contract to pursue STEM courses in college, and make them pay if otherwise. This is all to speed up the rate at which engineers and scientists are produced. But I tell you this thinking is flawed. Some progressive nations are not focused on science and technology. And it raises the question, how important really is S and T in a nation building?
You can also argue on the job opportunities. Yes the PSHS system can be successful in producing scientists but what careers await them afterwards? The Pisay contract only asks for mandatory service equal to the years when the scholarship was enjoyed (4 years before K12). Some of them might go to better opportunities outside the country and may never return. Some may even take jobs outside their field of study. The idea of scientific nation-building has aspects more than one, thus it is also important to explore on that.
Nation building should also be looked at different perspectives. I think a nation has to have a successful administration and governance, progressive fiscal and monetary policies, thriving centers for culture, music and arts, and many more.
Wasted Knowledge, Resources
The COA report states that “the government spent P521,302 for each scholar during his or her four-year tenure in the PSHS for school year 2012 to 2013.” [the Manila Times] So much taxpayer’s money is “wasted” every time a Pisay student chooses to not abide by the contract. To debunk this, first of all, the Pisay as a collective institute, does not fail in these statistics. If we consider 5500 graduates in the last 21 years, and only 73 deviated from the contract, then Pisay only has a 2.2% failing rate. Resources poured to Pisay is not wasted. It could also be analyzed on a different perspective. It could be that the changing times could have brought new ideologies, thus more and more Pisay scholars choosing to deviate from the contract. Perhaps the millennial culture of instant self-gratification could also play in this, but since there are little empirical data on the number of Pisay graduates over the years, it would be a difficult endeavor.
Second, nothing is really “wasted” since that Pisay graduate will always carry his knowledge with him.It will forever change the way he thinks, the way he percieves things, and the way he makes judgements will always be guided by the scientific method. About the other criteria of nation-building, Pisay still addresses them even if their graduate does not take STEM courses. I believe we can be a progressive nation if, for example, we have fashion designers who are well-versed with integral and differential calculus; or politicians who can identify the genus of the eggplant; or journalists who can also discuss quantum mechanics. I can argue that acquired knowledge is never wasted.
When you were twelve and you were asked “what would you like to become?” what do you remember you said? Is it entirely different from what you are right now? The same could be true for Pisay scholars. They were twelve or thirteen when they signed the Pisay contract. Could you really blame them if they decided to change plans along the way? Criminalizing rogue scholars does not help them. We must encourage them to find themselves and explore new disciplines, just as we should for every youth.